SkyFence, which attracted national media attention as a world-first when it was installed, is up and running after having to wait for the UK Government to extend the law allowing it to be operated.
Prison governor Dave Matthews said there had been no recorded accidents or complaints since the legislation was approved and the technology commissioned.
‘Drones are detected by a double layered alarm and denial system which turns on an inner defence unit,’ he said. ‘Detectors are situated around the fence and sense any drone signal within 1,000 metres radius.
‘When activated, the inner fence drone unit (SkyFence) disables the drone operator’s signal, which causes the drone to revert to factory settings. This involves the drone rising to a safe height and returning to the operator’s location, at which point the operator regains control of the drone.
‘We have concluded that the majority of alarm incidents occur late afternoon and early evening, we anticipate that most of these detections are through innocent drone use within the vicinity.
‘Recently there were some detections occurring in the very early hours of the morning which have been monitored and have now ceased. No drone has been able to penetrate the drone defence system.’
Mr Matthew said independent testing had taken place to ensure there were no glitches.
‘SkyFence has undergone full maintenance and testing procedures during 2018 and passed in all areas,’ he said.
‘The system was subject to local independent penetration testing and in addition the prison has also undertaken independent testing of the system without the contractor on site.
‘After extensive drone flights covering all fence areas at various distances, no drone was able to cross the fence, and the system operated as expected on each occasion.’
Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service are looking at installing similar defence systems across a number of UK prisons.
Drone Defence, the manufacturers of SkyFence alongside Eclipse Digital Solutions, has said a fully-installed product at a prison the size of Les Nicolles would cost between £200,000 and £250,000.